Bill Would Give Free Pass to Nuisance Tenants

Timothy L. Coyle
Consultant specializing in housing issues

If a tenant in a residential rental property of yours is continuously hassling his or her next-door neighbors, after several warnings would you move to evict?  How about if a tenant consistently violates the building’s no-smoking policy?  What if that tenant is found to keep an illegal pet?  By notifying the tenant up to 60 days in advance, existing law says you can evict.

But, that right would all but disappear if a measure by Oakland Democrat Rob Bonta becomes law.  That’s because AB 2925 would require you, as a landlord, to indicate in your Notice of Termination of the tenancy the reason for the eviction – and, of course, be prepared to adjudicate the proposed action in court.

At best, AB 2925 is an invitation to settle more rental disputes in court, where property owners continuously encounter difficult circumstances.  In court, the odds are stacked against property owners, who face the tenant, an army of legal-aid lawyers and increasingly “little guy” sympathizing judges and juries.

The bill also essentially repeals existing law whereby landlords, and their family members, would no longer be able to occupy a rental property that they own.  Indeed, through a legislative sleight of hand AB 2925 upsets the Ellis Act, which allows property owners to remove a property from local rental inventories without penalty.  This often happens when owners seek to de-commission a property to turn over residency to relatives.  AB 2925 would change all that.

The record of local “just cause” ordinances is, at best, spotty.  Says the San Diego County Apartment Association:

In cities where Just Cause eviction ordinances are in place, property owners do not have the ability to evict tenants who have been repeatedly reported to harass, bully or threaten neighbors or even commit petty crime.

If you can’t evict perpetrators of petty crimes, isn’t Sacramento simply directing owners to turn their properties over to thugs and thieves?

It isn’t that rental property owners need this new headache, either.  In addition to their having countless bills this year requiring them to do this or that, owners face a statewide initiative – appearing on the November state ballot – that would repeal the longstanding state law restricting local rent control.  In this housing-crisis environment, defeating that initiative – backed by a plethora of tenant advocacy groups and local governments – will take a fair amount of political muscle, and lots of money.

It goes without saying that AB 2925 needs to be defeated.  And, given the state’s current housing condition, brought on by a lack of supply, couldn’t the Legislature find something better to do?  Like passing legislation to build more housing?

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